Date of this Version
Great Plains Quarterly Volume 28, Number 3, Summer 2008, pp. 249-50.
As the title suggests, this collection of essays on "Living and Writing the West" is conversational and engaging, sometimes brash and humorous. Editor W. C. Jameson arranges the different voices of twelve popular authors on Western subjects, and the result is indeed like listening in on the thoughts and reminiscences of seasoned writers over a hot cup of coffee on a chilly morning. For aspiring writers and general readers alike, this anthology presents an eclectic array of opinions and stories about the distinctive challenges presented to those who write about "the West."
Jameson introduces his vision of the book by recounting his initial response to a particular novel, Elmer Keaton's The Time It Never Rained (1973), which inspired his curiosity about the author's relationship to his subject: "I wanted to ask him how the western landscape sparked his imagination, inspired his ideals, and influenced his style." Ultimately, this became a quest to assemble these personal statements from professional Western writers "about their lives and what inspired them to write." As might be expected, the personal reflections here approach the subject from a wide variety of perspectives, expressing the diversity of training and interests in writers who work in genres as different as fiction, poetry, and history, and who write about regions representing the striking contrasts in Western environments, from the Southwest desert to the Rocky Mountains to the Great Plains.